You are browsing the archive for Josephine K. Henry.

Reform and the Struggle Within

September 24, 2010 in Political history, Social history

The struggle of progress: breaking down the environmental and social bounds that enslave us. Stated more politically as Reform. Women, do you want the right to have co-guardianship of your children, to have the right to own or inherit land, make a will, or even earn wages? Josephine K. Henry wanted these rights for all women.

She is a Kentucky native, born in Newport and resided with her husband in Versailles. Many titles describes her as: a progressive civil rights leader, social reformer, writer and poet, and leading advocate in support of the “Husband and Wife Bill” which was signed into law in 1894. More information can be found in the Kentucky Law Journal. Henry was the first woman to run for a state office in Kentucky before ratification of the 19th Amendment. Her other works as a writer include “The New Woman of The New South”, “Marriage and Divorce”, and in conjunction with Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the “Woman’s Bible” as a member of the revising committee.1 Josephine Henry’s civil rights activity is extensive regarding the numerous news paper articles she wrote and traveling she did to deliver lectures.

In addition, Josephine and Laura Clay co-founded the Kentucky Equal Rights Association. It’s purpose was to revitalize and expand the woman’s suffrage movement in Kentucky and fought for social reform, right to vote, and property rights. Most compelling here is an example of a suffrage woman’s difference of opinion. Josephine was much too radical in her progressive and outspoken views on religion, marriage, and divorce for the liking of Henry and Laura Clay who stood with old fashioned southern values. Most evidently, this created a split within the Association.

Laura Clay: Kentucky Suffragette

September 23, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Political history

Laura Clay was born into a wealthy family and was well educated but this did not separate her from leading a life of advocacy for all women during the sufferage movement.  Laura Clay was the daughter of Cassius Marcellus Clay, a prominent politician and was educated at the University of Michigan and the University of Kentucky.  It wasn’t until after her parents divorced leaving her and her sisters homeless that she decided to join the women’s rights movement.

So in 1888 she and a woman named Josephine K. Henry founded the Kentucky Equal Rights Association.  Clay served as the association’s president until 1912 before being succeeded by her cousin and also well known Kentucky women’s rights activist Madeline McDowell Breckenridge.

During her time with the Kentucky Equal Rights Association Clay was able to establish some great milestones for women in the state of Kentucky.  Some examples are  protecting married women’s wages and property, requiring state women’s mental hospitals to have female doctors on staff, getting  Transylvania University and Central University to admit women students, raising the age of consent for girls to 16 from 12, and establishing juvenile courts. They also inspired the University of Kentucky’s first women’s dormitory.

However, there are some contradictions associated with Ms. Clay.  Although she brought some great things to the women’s movement in Kentucky through her activism, one could also make the argument that she actually impeded some progress when she opposed the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution citing that it violated state’s rights.

The amendent still passed and Ms. Clay was still praised and liked among most women activists.  She was even nominated for President by the Democratic party, and although she didn’t win the nomination, she made American history as being the first woman to ever be nominated by a major political party and still remains an important part of women’s rights and the history of women’s suffrage today.

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